Education Minister, David Moinina Sengeh Narrates His Experiences After Touring Sierra Leone Government Schools
Education Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, David Moinina Sengeh has embarked on a recent school visitation monitoring teachers attendance and school Pupils Performances.
The Minister recently dropped in at 4 schools: FAWE Girls School in Grafton, Prince of Wales, Freetown Secondary School for Girls and Methodist Girls High School to understand the reported high levels of absenteeism in our schools by both teachers and pupils (particularly those in SSS3).
He Pointed out that the irony is that we have 206,000 candidates who are supposedly in SSS 3 (including repeaters) registered to take the WASSCE Exams starting in a month or so.
He confirmed that at his alma mater Prince of Wales, he was sad to learn that the students in Arts haven’t had more than a handful of math lessons for 2 terms.
“In this second term, no one has shown up. Their Agricultural Science teacher had also never showed up. I called him in the class, and he had nothing to say but that he’ll show up in the future. The Principal was with me on the tour, and he said he’s issued this teacher a query already. I am surprised – what happened after that? What did they Board do? Are they aware? How did we give up on these kids before they even had a chance?
“At FSSG, the Principal showed me the teachers’ attendance list, and several are often absent. To my dismay, she said she’d given them query letters approved by the Board, and those same teachers had been transferred to other schools by TSC. What?!! FSSG is one of our schools that moved to a single shift, and I learned that most pupils and teachers (less than a third) make it before 8:30 am to school.
At Methodist Girls, I was told by pupils in Arts again that their teachers, including Math and Health Science, do not show up. In another stream, the English teacher does not or hasn’t shown up for this term. How do we expect the pupils to pass?
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“As for pupils, attendance was dismal. The SSS2 and SSS1 classes are well attended, but SSS3 classes are empty. What are parents doing? What is the PTA doing? What are Principals doing? What are Boards doing? If we said only those who attend 80% of the time can take exams, what would happen? We are not going to transform our country until everyone plays their own part at home, in schools, in classrooms, etc.
“While I was sad, I was also hopeful. There were teachers who taught multiple classes every period every day. There’s the workshop teacher at POW working with an alumni pupil to invent new products. There were the Principal and Vice Principal at FSSG who stayed late working on fixing issues in their school. And there are pupils at POW and Girls’ School who were teaching each other when teachers don’t show up. There was that one pupil who had on a mask in a class of 40 without. Those people give us hope. We need everyone to be like them.
“I asked the pupils to write a letter to their Principals complaining teachers who dont show up. I asked Principals to write more query letters. And I thanked those teachers who I met in class even when their colleagues are awol.
We have provided those Principals computers to submit attendance of teachers but they dont use it. We have trained teachers on Code of Conduct but they don’t listen. We have trained all Boards of Governors about their roles, but they don’t act.
“We will go back to the drawing board. At my senior management meeting today, we set up a sub committee including our Directors and Chief Education Officer to bring us ideas for intervention. We love system challenges and we are determined to address this. We will stop at nothing…”